I am an American who lives in Europe. I've done my time at Goldman Sachs in NYC and now I'm here, 3,500 miles across the Atlantic getting up close and personal to the land of my forebears. I'm also working - sadly I'm not one of those ex-GS people who doesn't have to. And at this time of the year, I'm one of the only people in the office.
When you work in NYC, summer is not a big deal. Sure, people go on holiday. Sure, people go to the Hamptons and Montauk, but summer is not a sacrosanct time when you step totally away from your desk. In Europe (and I'm not in London, but in one of the lesser finance cities on the continental mainland), it's different. Summer here is summer. And summer is not for work.
This means that around about now - if not a few weeks before - almost everyone stops. It's wild: people here take a full three or four week vacation in a block. In a team of six people it's not uncommon to find only one left on the desk in late July and August. This is me.
This is totally different to the way things are in the U.S.. When I worked for Goldman, I had the option of taking plenty of vacation time. I'd been there long enough that I got four weeks, plus three "floating days," but I never used them all. At most I'd use four weeks in total, but never in blocks of more than two weeks at each time. Taking a three week block trip in the U.S. would be a huge deal. Taking four weeks would be impossible.
It wasn't just me. It's a cultural thing: in the U.S. it's not accepted to use all your vacation days. This creates headaches for the banks - most people have a lot of rollover days which they didn't take from the year before. At Goldman I had 15. The firm tried to clampdown on this and limit the rollover to 10 days because people would cash out their vacation days when they quit.
In Europe, the approach to vacations is totally different. The approach is, "“I have six weeks, I’m going to use every day, and I’m going to take four weeks in the summer continuously.”
This is kind of refreshing. When you take three of four weeks off you actually get to relax instead of taking seven days and spending two of them on planes.
Why am I not on the beach now then? I still have NY habits: I've wasted two blocks of two weeks already (one to see my folks, one to see friends in London). I'm kind of regretting that. Next year, I'll block out the whole summer too. You'll find me on the Amalfi Coast for four weeks running. Weekends in the Hamptons are peanuts by comparison.
Calvin Colby is the pseudonym of a former derivative salesman now based in Europe
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